“I guess you could say I’m a direct vessel of God.”
The Chelsea Peretti of Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats is prone to espousing such bold proclamations. And while the vanity and self-aggrandizing on display here are all played for laughs, there is little doubt that this special is indeed designed to make a big impact. After years of building up her comedy cred via her stand-up, TV writing (Parks and Recreation, The Kroll Show), frequent podcast appearances (including her own show, Call Chelsea Peretti) and scene-stealing moments as inept police administrator Gina Linetti on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, One of the Greats effectively serves as Peretti’s bid for center stage. Given her list of credentials, it’s not at all surprising that she knocks it out of the park.
As is the case with many high-profile stand-up specials these days, Peretti opens hers with a bit of pre-taped tomfoolery. Reflecting the grandiose nature of the special, the comedian and director Lance Bangs design an equally grandiose intro segment. Lowering her voice to a dramatic, Christian-Bale-as-Batman-esque growl, Peretti monologues over shots of her riding a motorcycle through San Francisco, à la Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. She then proceeds to trace her “history” up to this point, which includes clips from her previous (and fictional) specials with titles like It’s Go Time! (a riff on Eddie Murphy’s brash ‘80s specials), I’m Still Tired and Why Am I Still Talking (wherein she is shown to have descended into existential angst).
Despite this audacious opening, a good chunk of the special’s material actually emerges from a much more relatable, introspective place, whether it’s discussing the agony of making small talk, the frustrations of dealing with “hot” girls and their egos or the joyful allure of getting to stay at home. Peretti gets particularly good mileage out of outlining the inherent absurdity of the generic “getting to know you” exchanges (“Okay, I’ve never been to that town… but I’ve been to a nearby town and I can kind of imagine…”).
Along with displaying her own playful form of swagger, Peretti also takes aim at
society’s own conceptions of male braggadocio, from how some men interpret Breaking Bad and Daniel Day-Lewis movies as power fantasies to the comical way in which certain individuals try to assert their masculinity (“When you guys stomp, do your balls wiggle?” she asks to big laughs).
While such material has the danger of dissolving into the stock “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” shtick, Peretti successfully inserts her own spin by pointing out how this gender divide also applies to the comedy world. Most notable is a bit where she points out the hackneyed way in which male comics use their microphones and stools as a way of simulating sex. Such is a practice that—as she hilariously pantomimes—doesn’t exactly work as well for female comics. Also, in one of the set’s best moment, she directly attacks the sexist notion that a female comedian’s material revolves exclusively around their periods by pointing out how, if men were to experience menstruation, they would never shut up about it.
Given that Peretti now has a more pronounced media presence in the wake of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, she also tackles the ill-conceived notion of Googling oneself, a process that she likens to her “version of cutting.” Upon discovering a caricature drawing one person made of her, she comments, ”I don’t know if you can imagine what feature they may have exaggerated… but it wasn’t my big heart.”
Throughout all this, Peretti and Bangs continually attempt to weave the meta-humor from the opening across the entire special. This is primarily represented through increasingly bizarre cutaways to the audience that depict (to name just a few) dogs in rapt attention, a couple making out and a man using a leaf blower in the middle of the theater aisle. While these visual gags add a nice spice of playful experimentation to the proceedings, other gags, such as a clown version of Peretti taunting herself from off-stage, only serve to briefly disrupt the momentum of the set.
After years of paying her dues, Peretti has more than earned her moment in the spotlight. Considering the special’s title, it’s tempting to end this review by positing the obvious question: Is Peretti indeed one of the greats? Long answer—for anyone who has tracked her growth, it’s clear that she has always been a voice to be reckoned with. In this way, her special only reiterates what any serious comedy fan had long ago determined. Hopefully, it will serve to introduce a whole new audience to Peretti’s offbeat brand of humor.
Short answer—yeah, she’s pretty friggin’ great.